Gratitude and song

The premiere of the second Sermon went very well and I’m very grateful to have found such an attentive and appreciative audience in the astonishing Less Wrong community. This group is truly a collection of remarkable minds, and I’m sure much will become of it. There were about 30 of us, and we went through both existing Sermons non-stop. I was pleased to learn nobody could tell where the first one ended and the second began – after all, the whole thing is a single poem, though in seven parts, and I hope to one day present it as a single, huge, roughly 100 minutes experience.

I feel the experience is much more powerful when several people speak the text in unison. That was not possible this time, because I literally only finished the text about 10 minutes before the performance, but I’ll be experimenting with it at some reading or another.

Instead, after the meditation proper was over and we’d chatted about it a bit, some of us tried singing Sermon stanzas. That was great! Because you see, the entire text is in the common metre. There’s a secret reason for this, related to the secret reason every Sermon has exactly 80 stanzas, but those aren’t relevant at this stage. Much more importantly, the common metre makes text written in it fit the melodies of many songs, including church songs like Amazing Grace and pop songs like House of the Rising Sun. Game of Thrones fans might be interested to learn that The Rains of Castamere is also a common metre song. All three of these were great with Sermon stanzas, as was rapping them accompanied by beatboxing.

In finishing up the text, I received help from a lot of people who went over several drafts and pointed out issues to fix, and I want to mention at least the ones who helped the most. Katrin and Laila gave the most detailed feedback on content and meditative flow – thanks girls! Julia, Günther and Michel checked the science and made sure it was correct enough for poetry. Richard and Viva especially helped with trimming the text. Raymond and Julian were particularly helpful on matters of rhyme and meter, since unlike me they’re native speakers and the rhyme dictionaries disagree with each other way more often than should be possible. I also got advice from Anne and Nikki and a few others – thanks to each and every one! I couldn’t have done it like this without you!

Now… onwards to the third Sermon! Maybe I can try to make it in just one year this time, and premiere it at the Less Wrong Community Weekend next year. I’d have to set a new personal record to do it, but these guys can be so inspiring it seems certainly worth trying. 🙂